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It’s Art in Your Mind

Students of Jungian psychology, mythology and alchemy should have a field day reading meaning into the landscapes of Margaret Nielsen, where snakes wiggle upriver, fish fly and ritualistic fires flame in the wilderness.

On view through Sept. 25 at Asher/Faure, Nielsen’s small luminous paintings are packed with symbolism. Fire, water and animals meet in these recent forest scenes, which mix myth, archetype and often refer to spiritual or psychological development.

In “Circumstance,” for instance, “a ring of fire surrounding a camping tent becomes a protective circle in which to create a magic ritual,” Nielsen said. The magic ritual, she explained, is the spiritual or psychological transformation of “who ever is in the tent.”

“Embrace” depicts an elk, which alludes to Greek mythology and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, butting its antlered head against a tree in a dark forest penetrated by shafts of sunlight.

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“The dark woodland symbolizes the unconscious, the elk, like all animals, is the instinctive aspect of human nature, and the tree represents the self,” Nielsen said. “This shows the instinctual aspect encountering another aspect of the self. The sun streaming in is the conscious mind.”

The daughter of a Royal Canadian Mountie, Nielsen’s images of canoes, forest fires and camping tents come from family myths of her father’s “life in no man’s land.” A practicing art therapist, she has long had a fascination with the psyche.

“I used to paint personal experiences from my own life, but these works are more generalized. Hopefully, other people will be able to interpret the symbolism in their own way or project their own psychological process into them.”


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